Getting to know Washington State

Here’s a catch-up long overdue. It’s been over 3 weeks since my last blog; I can remember all the interesting parts. Also, see my introductory blog on Conservation Northwest (http://www.conservationnw.org/news/scat/conservation-adventures-worldwide).

I hit the music scene as soon as I arrived in Bellingham and it’s hard to keep away. Julia, a co-worker at Conservation Northwest, has been great since she knows everyone – luckily for me! I seem to know the best person for connections in Bellingham, especially with all the musicians. Since being at the Jamboree (see my last travel blog) I have been out to Redlight (http://www.redlightbellingham.com/) to see Rattletrap Ruckus, to Honey Moon (they sell own-brewed Mead!http://www.honeymoonmead.net/ ) to see The Shadies, and last night to Boundary Bay Brewery (http://www.bbaybrewery.com/) to go to a mini spin-off of the Jamboree: The Splendid Jugband Jubilee. It was packed with amazing musicians again, and there was much dancing to be had, interspersed with Strangely (http://strangelyandfriends.com/) taking centre stage, as he will, in between bands – and of course he was wearing a Kilt over his wonderful Onsie after coming back from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I met even more lovely, sometimes strange, people – but then again, everyone is a bit odd (i.e. interesting). Dancing was great fun (as it always is); everyone dances here, and I love how (as Julia pointed out) all the guys just get up and dance, and more often than not it’s the boys who start it off rather than the usual female majority.

On Saturday (17th) I went to the BearTrek filming at Mount Baker theatre. Chris Morgan, ‘the bear guy’, was concluding his extensive conservation project, centred on bears, with him presenting to an audience (us in Bellingham). You might have seen him in Great Beat Stakeout. This was a really inspiring talk about using bears as an umbrella species to protect a huge variety of habitats across the world. It wasn’t just a presentation about an idea, it was a presentation about how the project kicked-off and is coming to a climax with the making of the film ‘BearTrek’. Find out more here: http://www.wildlifemedia.org/campaign.html.  The campaign is fantastic and global. I was thinking, “well yeah, but what about Canidae?” – maybe another project for another day?

The weekend (7th and 8th) I spent getting to know Bellingham a bit more. Saturday, after skyping family, I went to Bellingham Farmer’s Market (http://www.bellinghamfarmers.org/). There’s even busking at the market – music is everywhere! The food stands are all amazing – fresh fruit and veg (mostly organic), honey (honey still in the comb, yum), fresh bread, amazing cheeses (mmm feta)…the list goes on. There are also arts & crafts on sale – lovely pottery, artwork, clothes, bags and gifts. I did treat myself of course. On Sunday I had an adventure on the bus (super easy and cheap compared to the UK), and I went to Whatcom Falls Park and Lake Whatcom. It turned out to be another lovely hot day, and I swam in the lake and walked around the park. The waterfalls are amazing in the park; there’s lots of swimming pools at the bottom of the falls, and there’s a spot for cliff jumping (fun to watch, but I didn’t fancy it myself).

Last week started off with a few days of work at the office, then I went on a trip with Mitch and one of his daughters. On Wednesday (28th) we left Bellingham to travel to Omak, over the Cascades mountain range to Northeast Washington. The journey is amazing – the views were stunning, partly due to the beautiful weather. We headed to another Conservation Northwest colleague’s home to tube down the lazy river there – The Okanogan River. It was much warmer than Western Washington, with a Steppe landscape. We tubed down the river, taking a few hours to get back to Jay’s house – a drive which only take 5 minutes. We got in the river opposite where the horses come down during the Omak Stampede (http://www.omakstampede.org/) – a controversial event that happens yearly in Omak. I couldn’t imagine charging a horse down the super steep hill into the river… Anyway, along the river there was plenty of wildlife to be seen. There was an Osprey which we followed down river for a long time – each time we reached him he flew further on. This was a wonderful experience for me since it is relatively difficult to see an Osprey in the UK, and there I was just following one closely down the river. Then he decided to try catch fish just after I said “I’ve never seen an osprey hunt before.” He dived to the water’s surface and after a big splash (I couldn’t see a fish), headed for the trees again. I wonder if he had chicks to feed and where the nest was. Later on I saw a Mustelid along the river bank; it was quite large and very dark in colour – may have been an otter but I’m not sure. There were some tiny rapids to add a bit of excitement, and we did one section 3 times before walking up to the house. We got in the pool and then the hot tub, and to top it all off we had a BBQ and ate outside. It was a warm evening, which is always nice. Then we saw a Bald Eagle – I really wasn’t expecting that. The next day proved to be a rainy and foggy drive back, with a stop in Winthrop – a quirky town, kept in a cowboy-western style. We also stopped at the Forestry Service HQ, which has some interesting interpretation and a cool 3D map of the mountain range. We spotted a wolf talk being held there, and it was nice to know people were thinking about the returning gray wolves.

Just one of the stunning views as you cross the mountain pass through the Cascades. Travelling from Bellingham to Omak.

Just one of the stunning views as you cross the mountain pass through the Cascades. Travelling from Bellingham to Omak.

The water was so green here, presumably from the dissolved minerals from surrounding mountains.

The water was so green here, presumably from the dissolved minerals from surrounding mountains.

There’s a brief account of my travels so far…more to come on hiking Skyline Divide and updates on the internship at Conservation Northwest.

Have a nice day!

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